Lynyrd Skynyrd Keep Cranking Out The Hits

Photo by Clay Patrick McBride
Photo by Clay Patrick McBride

With a catalogue of music that boasts more than 60 albums and accounts for more than 30 million records sold worldwide, Lynyrd Skynyrd cemented their place in the annals of rock and roll history long ago thanks to classic rock staples like “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Having long overcome the tragic 1977 plane crash which claimed the lives of vocalist Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines, the legacy of Lynyrd Skynyrd continues to show its impact.

In the week following their two scheduled shows at Moncton’s Casino New Brunswick this Friday and Saturday nights, the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd will be celebrated at Atlanta’s famed Fox Theatre by a roster of musicians including Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick, John Hiatt and Gregg Allman. The tribute show, “One More For The Fans! Celebrating The Songs & Music Of Lynyrd Skynyrd,” will also feature a show-closing performance by the group themselves.

“It is very humbling to see how the group has influenced artists not only in rock but in pop, heavy metal and country music,” Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Rickey Medlocke says. “What it comes down to is the music. The music of Lynyrd Skynyrd crosses a lot of barriers and knocks down a lot of walls. There is a certain timeless quality to the music; it will be here much longer than I will be.”

Medlocke has a unique perspective on Lynyrd Skynyrd: He played drums with the group for a period of time but ended up departing the band prior to the recording of their debut album. He returned to the Lynyrd Skynyrd fold as a guitarist in 1996 and has enjoyed every moment since.

“Lynyrd Skynyrd celebrated the release of Freebird … The Movie at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre in 1996 where I took part in an all-star jam with the band. (Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist) Gary (Rossington) had talked about perhaps getting me back in the band. That March, Gary came down to my place where we hung out and talked for a while and it just seemed to be the right time and the right circumstances for me to rejoin the band.

“This coming March, it will be 19 years that I have been back with Lynyrd Skynyrd. I look at it and think there must be somebody smiling down upon me. It has been such an incredible experience and continues to be something very special. Everyone on stage is having the time of their lives. It feels really good each and every night we are on stage.”

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s current live show relies upon a mix of the classic songs that the band is known for but also includes more recent material that the band has written. Eschewing the trend of solely relying on their past hits to keep the audiences coming, Lynyrd Skynyrd has consistently continued making and releasing new studio albums.

Following their devastating 1977 plane crash, the band had splintered off into a variety of other projects and groups before ultimately reviving the Lynyrd Skynyrd name in 1987. In 1988, the band released Southern By The Grace Of God, a live record capturing their acclaimed reunion tour of the previous year. In 1991, Lynyrd Skynyrd released their first studio album in 14 years, Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991. Since then, the band has continued releasing new albums, their most recent being 2012’s Last Of A Dyin’ Breed.

Medlocke believes it is equally important that the group nurtures their creative side by continuing to write and record new music rather than relying upon their past to move them forward.

“I think the trap a lot of artists fall into when it comes to some artists making and releasing new music is that they are constantly trying to better their history. I’m of the opinion that you cannot necessarily better what made you popular in the first place. It is a different day and a different set of circumstances. We could sit down and try to write a song better than ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ but I feel that as long as we remain true to the craft and making music that feels good to us, that’s all anyone can ask for. Every time we go into the studio, we are just trying to write the best songs we can,” he says.

Just as the group has kept itself busy over the last two decades, the sun is far from setting on Lynyrd Skynyrd. In addition to returning to Australia and New Zealand for performances in the new year, Medlocke also shares that an extensive Canadian tour is in the works. New music from the group will be forthcoming at some point as well.

“Being a part of this band is one of the satisfying and gratifying things to be able to do with your life,” Medlocke surmises. “We have no intention of slowing down.”

What: Lynyrd Skynyrd
When: Friday Nov. 7 and Saturday Nov. 8, 8 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets are $79.99 (plus taxes and service charges). Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone at 1-866-943-8849 and online at www.casinonb.ca